CRI Focus Areas

Are our politicians worth more?


This article originally appeared on February 3, 2015, and in The News Journal February 4, 2015. View the original here   Survey after survey shows high levels of disillusion among voters regarding their elected officials. The sense is that the political elite display a growing contempt for the average citizen. That the political elite have an attitude of condescension regarding the average person and question the capacity of the person “in the street” to self-govern and to even make rational choices.   This attitude has been clearly demonstrated in Delaware. The majority of the political elites, believing they have special insights into climate change, have increased electric rates by placing the state into a regional carbon tax and trade system and giving away one-half a billion dollars to Bloom Energy.   The majority of the political elites in Delaware are reluctant to allow parents more choice regarding public education. Preferring instead to spend more money on the current education system. And now the elites want to “plan” the state’s health care system.   The state payroll data available in Caesar Rodney Institute’s Transparent Delaware provides some evidence of the special value Delaware’s political elites place upon themselves on average.   The increases in salaries from 2007-13, encompassing a severe recession, tell quite a story.   From 2007-13, the average annual pay among private-sector workers in Delaware rose 10.1 percent (BLS, QCEW) and the annual pay of full-time state government workers went up 6.5 percent (Census, annual survey of government payroll).   Among 14 individuals who were in the Delaware Senate in both 2007 and 2013, annual salaries increased on average 17.3 percent (note that two individuals moved to the Senate from the House). Individual increases ranged from a high of 23 percent to a low of -2 percent.   Among the 13 individuals who were in the Delaware House in both 2007 and 2013, annual salaries increased on average 11 percent. Individual increases ranged from a high of 28 percent to a low of -6 percent.   Over this same time period, the salary of Delaware’s governor went up 21.1 percent.   The Delaware legislature convenes in early January and adjourns by the last day of June. For six months’ worth of work, the average pay, including stipends, of a senator in 2013 was $59,300 and the average pay of a representative was $55,800.   To be clear, however, the legislators do not set their own salaries and stipends. This is done by the Delaware Compensation Commission of whom 5 out of 6 members are legislators and 1 member is from the private sector.   Certainly, like most of us, Delaware state legislators feel overworked, underpaid and unappreciated. However, getting paid twice the average Delaware private-sector worker for half the amount of months on the job does seem excessive.   Dr. John E. Stapleford is president of the Caesar Rodney Institute.    


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